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Boston Celtics: The Curious Case of James Young

Updated on April 10, 2020
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James Young
James Young

In 2014, the Boston Celtics were in year two of a rebuild and were looking for home runs. They had just lost a coin toss for the 5th pick with the Utah Jazz and were looking at the 6th and 17th picks in this draft. The 6th pick went as expected; they took Marcus Smart, which retroactively is looking like a very solid pick, but their 17th pick and perennial 15th man James Young seems to be stagnant in his development. But this wasn’t always the case for James Young.

A Raw Talent

Before the draft, the Kentucky player wowed scouts in spurts and disappointed in others. It seemed he would eventually be destined for the NBA, although he was classed as raw. James before the draft was ranked between 22-30, a prospect that you would take and develop slowly. This was an idea that seemed to appeal to the Celtics, and with the 17th pick and a controversial fist pump by Bill Simmons, Celtics fans were optimistically hopeful.

How Young Played in College

But throughout all this, the signs were there in college that all things could point to bust. Make no mistake—he isn’t a bust yet, and he is still very young, but his college splits weren’t amazing by any means: 40.7% FG, 34.9% 3PT, 70.6% FT. He drew comparisons to a DeMar DeRozan type player using his length (6'6'' with 6'11'' wingspan), strength, and what athleticism he had to gain advantages over defences.

The Bad

But, all too many times, they were left scratching their heads; they weren’t quick enough to get his defender, so he settled for jump shots, couldn’t shoot with a hand in his face, and couldn’t separate himself with his ball handling. At the same time, if they look at him on the defensive end too many times, he would get lost off the ball, letting his player separate for back cuts, loosing shooters, or helping/doubling when it just wasn’t needed.

When he was on the ball, his defensive posture was poor—standing quite straight rather than getting lower to the ground—causing him to get beat.

The Good: Why He Was a First-Round Pick

Now, it’s not all bad; there is a reason he was rated as a first round pick. His ability to come off curls was one of his biggest calling cards. Also, the way he lost his defender off ball was great, and his ability to set his feet quickly and let a good shot fire made him a feature at times. He also had a decently quick release, which helped because he could not create too much room due to the lack of speed.

With all considered, he did look like an amazing prospect that looked to be perfect for a rebuild, or so the Celtics thought.

Rookie Mistakes

Now a few years removed and looking retroactively at the way the draft went and looking at names that went after him (Rodney Hood, Clint Capela, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Clarkson, and Dwight Powell are the main takeaways), Celtics fans are left shaking their heads at a guaranteed roster spot that cannot seem to take the floor.

When he does, he makes even the most basic mistakes at times and has trouble doing the things that he is good at (shooting splits: 34.1% 25% 50.5%). But again, let me remind you that even in this draft he wouldn’t be the oldest person.

The Team's Options for Young

So where does this leave us?

  • The Celtics could decide not to pick up his option next year, which will give them an extra million dollars (which is essentially worthless in this next year). If teams haven’t learnt that not picking up options can come back to bite you, ask the Charlotte Hornets if they wouldn’t mind having Biombo back on their pay roll (also they can't offer him as much as other teams). The last thing they need as a franchise is to let him walk and have him become a star or even a starter.
  • They could send him to the D league, but up to this point it hasn’t helped and may have even affected his confidence as seen in a couple of games where he passed up open shots to try and move the ball only to realise he needs to take them to be a successful player.
  • They could try to trade him, but what do they get back? Do they need another second rounder? Why would they need to add another one to the chamber and lose value?

Fans Need to Be Patient

Celtics fans need to just be patient give him time and let him develop from the outside he seems to work hard putting on 20 pounds of muscle last off-season after being called too small.

He may just need to spend more time with the video co-ordinators and study up harder to see where his strengths can fit in the Stevens scheme and know his assignments on defence. Here is hoping that this off-season he follows Isaiah Thomas to Seattle to play in the pro am to get some confidence back and even plays summer league to develop all facets of his game and maybe in a year or two Danny Ainge ends up looking like a genius or maybe his is a bust all we can do though from here is wait and see. Look at the way CJ McCollum blossomed with confidence so you really just never know. After all he is still the youngest player on the Celtics roster.


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